I have never minced words about my lack of formal education as a screenwriter or film maker. I've learned a wealth of knowledge in the last 3 and a half years since this crazy ride started.
NOTE : My only training as a writer was high school English classes and a class called Film History and Appreciation in high school. This is why I say no professional training having never gone to college to be a film maker or having taken a creative writing course.
The purpose of this blog is to give you these three guidelines for story telling and tell you the ways I have tweaked them to create my screenplays.
The Three Act Structure :
My method of screenwriting is very (times ten) basic BEGINNING, MIDDLE & END. That's it. I think by looking at the three act structure in it's simplest form I'm able to hit the other parts organically. I don't sit in my office and rack my brain trying to come to a mid point twist it simply comes to me naturally. I think alot of the ease of this approach also comes from watching alot of movies and learning what things work and what things don't in the genre. I also like to take things that are proven hits in the genre and tweak them to make them somewhat new.
NOTE : I think it's important to point out I've written alot of different genres I'm speaking as a horror writer for the purposes of this blog.
I will say the part I do have some issues with it what is shown on the graphic above as the "Descending Action" I have a hard time wrapping my movies up with a neat little bow because as a writer I've already started thinking about the sequel and how can I tie the end of the movie loosely enough to leave room for a sequel but still give the movie a clear ending in case I don't make a sequel.
NOTE : As I'm writing this blog I'm thinking about the ending I just wrote for my latest finished screenplay. I'm thinking how I could make it better or change it. I know it's a good ending because while it closes the door on the story there is a small part that leaves it open for a sequel should the audience demand it.
The three act structure in many ways I feel hinders the creative power of many writers because many feel they have to follow this model to the letter to be successful and in my humble opinion I don't think that's true at all, I've been able to write more then a dozen scripts crossing genres without being handcuffed to this structure.
Many of you will say that I don't use the three act structure because it's beyond me and you maybe right however I can tell you I've tried to use this structure and struggled to hit the points involved but once I tossed the "Structure" to the side and started thinking independent of it I was able to write scripts with relative ease.
This really comes down to a simple question Can you create a story without this structure or do you need the structure to create the story?
NOTE : Like I stated earlier I do hit all the points of the three act structure in some form but I don't handcuff myself to hitting the beats the same way with every single screenplay that I write.
The Eight Sequences fall into the Three Act Structure perfectly and again I write these sequences without even thinking about it.
The Eight Sequences :
I've been told I'm not doing it right, "You have to follow the eight sequences and the three act structure for your story to be any good and make sense." Well the pile of scripts I've written in my office tell me that I am doing it right and that I don't have to be a slave to these Act Structures or Sequences to tell a complete, compelling story that viewers can not only understand but enjoy the ride the story takes them on.
If you watch movies from any time period you see both the three act structure as well as The Eight Sequences if you know what to look for. I don't disagree with the use of these things I simply don't feel that I have to be forced to write in these guidelines if I don't think I can write a good story this way.
The Hero's Journey is in every story ever written, told or shown in a movie. it's there if you look for it. From Indiana Jones to Back To The Future and even Star Wars, The Hero's Journey is the driving force in all of them. I feel the Hero's Journey gets alittle cloudy in the horror genre but I'm sure it's in there.
The Hero's Journey :
Again I probably hit most if not all of these points when I write a screenplay but I don't get there by following along on the journey I get there via my own means and there isn't anything wrong with that. I try to look at the Hero's Journey when writing because it's a good thing to know and remember when writing a story however I only glance at it like the other two tools I've been talking about because I feel if you stare at them and try to force yourself to use them they way they are written you may lose something in your story by putting something where it simply doesn't fit.
With no formal training I'm able to write complete stories that make sense and have the readers engaged from beginning to end. I feel very blessed to have the gift of coming up with worlds, characters, killers and the events that lead the characters down their respective paths. I knwo what I have is a gift and I'm honored to be able to bring this gift to the world in the form of screenplays and thus movies for the world to see.
I have said many times during the course of this blog that I don't use these tools in the traditional way and the reason I keep making that statement is because I don't feel writers need to have these handcuffs on them when they are starting out or at any point in their lives. Storytelling is as old as time and while strories haven't changed from the structure we tell them in there is no reason why we can't change the way we deliver the story to our audience, is there?
I feel many good stories will never be written or discovered because many writers aren't comfortable writing because of these structures, sequences and the journey that alot of people feel you MUST follow for your story to be taken seriously. This is not true a godd story is a good story and it shouldn't matter how it came to be as long as the audience loves the story, the characters and the journey the story takes them on.
NOTE : Personally I think The Hero's Journey is the best tool to use for new writers if you feel like you need a guideline to help write your story.
In the ever changing world we live in today it's very easy for someone to write a story, play, script and make it into a stage production, book or motion picture. I guess what I'm saying if I'm saying anything at all is don't feel shackled to these tools if you have a story in your heart write it out and follow your dreams. If someone tells you that your doing it "wrong" they simply don't see your process and it's their loss.
I write in my own style and people enjoy reading my screenplays and thus enjoy watching my movies so I must be doing something right.
In closing I want to say that you notice I use the word GUIDELINE alot in this blog and all of these writing tools are just that a GUIDELINE on how to tell a story THEY ARE NOT RULES that you MUST follow to write a good story. At the beginning of this blog I talked about how I find myself talking about they way I write my scripts more and more then I thought I would after being in the business for 3 and a half years.
My style of writing hasn't changed much since day one. I have learned along the way that dialog is fun to play with the way characters say things and the words that they use. Years ago when I was toying with the idea of writing a screenplay I was told by a successful Hollywood writer Todd Farmer (who wrote Jason X and My Bloody Valentine 2009) to always write dialog the way people talk because it gives the characters their own voice and you can build off that voice and thus build off the character. That is advice I take with me with every script I write ......
NOTE : This blog is strictly my opinion and is not meant to discredit any of the structures, sequences or The Hero's Journey in anyway because they are obviously successful tools to story writing and storytelling this blog is simply telling you how I write my screenplays.
STAY HUMBLE, STAY HUMBLE MY FRIENDS :)